I’ve had the Bose Soundsport Free headphones for just under a month now and I’ve logged a ton of hours with them. I haven’t used them while working out as much as I should have, but I did get a ton of use from them during my recent around the world mileage run. I have to say, these little buds have grown on me as I use them. However, there are still some issues however that make me question the $250 price tag.
Bose Soundsport Free Headphones Overview
The Bose Soundsport Free headphones are the first truly independently wireless headphones from Bose. Previous bluetooth headphones from Bose have all featured at least one wire between the separate earpieces. Removing the wire between the earpieces means these new phones are finally on par with the Apple Airpods.
Unlike the Airpods, Bose markets these headphones toward active users such as runners and workout fanatics. The headphones are perfect for anyone who wants the freedom of wireless without the risk of loosing a headphone during a workout. Anyone familiar with the previous generations of Bose Soundsport headphones will quickly adapt to these new wireless ear buds while first time users may find the fit uncomfortable at first.
Some may find the fit uncomfortable because Bose uses “StayHear” ear tips. These secure tips rest in the ear canal and stay put thanks to a rubber mount just inside the Anterior Notch. Essentially the tip wedges in the little fold above your earhole. I personally find the headphones are comfortable to wear for long periods of time, but most importantly the ear buds stay put when moving around.
While I’ve only had these headphones for around three weeks, I’ve started to really enjoy using them for the following reasons.
The thing I love most about these headphones is that their truly wireless headphones. I’ve wanted truly wireless headphones since the Airpods came out late last year. I passed on the Airpods because they don’t fit in my ear and fall out even when I’m sitting still. The Bose headphones stay in my ears not matter what. I haven’t had any issues with them falling out, even when running.
Another great thing about the Bose SoundSport Free headphones is the sound quality. Anyone familiar with Bose knows they produce superior sounding headphones and these are no exception. I have noticed that these ear buds are a little more bass heavy than my wired Soundsport headphones, but the bass isn’t overpowering as it is in some Beats by Dre headphones I’ve used.
Great Battery Life
Lastly, I love how quickly these charge and for that matter, how long the battery lasts. I’ve consistently received more than 4 hours of audio playback with these headphones since I started using them. Additionally, once securely inside the charing case, they’ll recharge to a comfortable level within 30 minutes. In the weeks I’ve been using these headphones I’ve never had any issues with battery life.
Speaking of the charging case, another fantastic feature of these headphones is the charing case. The case is a battery in and of itself and allows for up to two complete recharges of the headphones. So, if you have the buds in when recharging the case, you’ll receive around 15 total hours of music playback per single charge. This has allowed me to never worry about my headphones dying and leaving me without music.
Sadly the Bose Soundsport Free headphones aren’t all rainbows and butterflies. I have a few fairly significant issues with these headphones that make me question paying the $250 price tag.
The Charging Case
For starters, the charging case. It’s HUGE! I love that I have 15 hours of audio playback, but to do so I need to carry around the charging case which is about the size of a d-battery and a half. I would have rather Bose lessen the battery in the case and offered a smaller form factor after using these headphones for a few weeks.
Connectivity With Devices
The next issue is the connectivity of the headphones. Bose Soundsport Free headphones can only connect to a single bluetooth device at a time. I didn’t think this was going to be a big deal at first, but I quickly uncovered my issue with the single pairing option. The headphones try to automatically pair to the last known device. To pair to my phone I kept having to turn bluetooth off on my tablet and restart the pairing process with my phone. This became a rather significant issue when my tablet was inside a sealed plastic bag which couldn’t be opened on my flight home from Doha! I tried instead pairing to my phone via the Bose Connect app, but kept receiving an error message. Cleary this ended up being a rather significant and frustrating issue.
Connectivity Between Ear Buds
Speaking of the connectivity, the two ear buds don’t always play well together. I can’t figure out the exact conditions that cause this to happen, but the left bud occasionally disengages the right bud. This leads to music dropping out of the left bud and then coming back but causing what seems like a game of ping-pong played with music between my ears. I’ve found this happens much more often while walking on the crowded streets of Chicago than it does when working out in a gym or sitting still listening to music.
During this game of musical ping-pong each bud momentarily stops playing music. I’m not sure if this is due to a loss of connection with my phone or with the other ear bud, but either way it’s frustrating and something I want a fix for sooner than later. I have noticed this happens less and less often with time, but as I’ve mentioned before, for $250 I don’t think it should happen ever.
True Wireless Ear Buds
The last and most surprising issue I’ve head with these headphones is the thing I wanted the most. Although I love having completely wireless ear buds while listening to music I find them a little annoying when trying to navigate a store or airport. With a normal set of headphones I hold the cord as I pop each ear bud out of my ear. With these I have to hold them the entire time I’m talking to someone. I could put them in my pocket, but I want to avoid doing this to minimize the long-term wear and tear of the headphones.
This became a huge issue when checking into my Qatar Airways flight in Doha. I placed the ear buds down on the check-in counter and as you could get I left them on the counter when I walked away. Of course this is user error, but it’s still an error that probably wouldn’t happen if I used bluetooth headphones with a cord between ear buds.
Master Earbud and Passive Earbud
This is one issue that I absolutely have to mention. Essentially the right ear bud is the mater ear bud. This ear bud is the one that connects to your phone and the left bud then connects to the right to listen to music. This means that you can listen to music with the right bud only while the left is in the charging case, but not the other way around. You can put the right in your pocket and only listen with your left, but that only highlights the second issue with this configuration.
Phone calls and voice prompts only go to the right ear bud. You can only talk on the phone via the right ear bud. When talking on the phone, the person’s voice on the other end is only heard from the right bud. The left bud remains silent throughout the phone conversation. Additionally, any voice prompts from the headphones only go to the right ear bud as well. That second point isn’t as frustrating, but still confusing if you put the left bud in your ear first and miss the “battery life is” and “connected to…” voice prompts from the right bud.
The final issue I have with the Bose Soundsport Free headphones is the audio lag when watching videos. When watching videos on a mobile device there is a noticeable lag between the video and the sound coming from the Bose Soundsport Free headphones. For downloaded content the lag was just a few moments, but when streaming video the lag becomes noticeably worse. This really bothers some people, but I rarely use headphones to watch video so it doesn’t bother me as much.
I’m really torn when it comes to these headphones. I’ve really enjoyed using them for the past few weeks and they are a joy to workout with (when I actually get around to working out). However, between the connectivity issues and the noticeable video lag I definitely can’t recommend anyone else buy these yet.
I’m lucky that I saved well over $50 when purchasing these headphones thanks to the Amazon and American Express promotion offered a few weeks ago. At $200 the Bose Soundsport Free headphones are marginally more expensive than the Bose Soundsport Wireless headphones connected by a wire. For that reason I’m not too concerned about the price and am willing to stick with these headphones a little bit longer. I’ve noticed the connectivity issues improving over the past few weeks and the video lag appears to have improved slightly since I first starting using these headphones. I hope Bose corrects both of these issues entirely in the coming weeks.
Once Bose fixes the connection issues and I feel more comfortable leaving home without the charging case I’ll be happy to use these headphones as my daily drivers. Who knows maybe these headphones will even encourage me to go to the gym more often. Ha!